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Welcome to my hands and feet breakdown and follow up resource. I have designed this in the hope that you will be able to continue using the technique once the workshops are over. One of the aims of this dance resource is to enable teachers from all backgrounds and level of training to deliver effective and engaging dance classes over the course of weeks depending on their curriculum requirements.
I have been teaching these workshops for nearly twenty years now and after visiting over 6000 schools, I can tell you that this hands and feet body percussion workshop works incredibly well as a tool to initially engage your children in dance and can be later developed in various directions including cross-curriculum work. Once the children have become proficient and confident using this body percussion technique, it will be considerably easier to introduce them to other forms of dance and music.
So let us start with me explaining some of the reasons that I think that this technique works with children of all ages and abilities. Firstly it is no secret that teachers of KS1 and 2 children need to be versatile and inventive in order to cover the wide curriculum, and teaching dance to children who are already engaged is one thing, but teaching dance to children who may not have opted in as it were is entirely another. Talented as most teachers are, I doubt that past those few years of dance that you may have done as a child, you have any significant dance experience. Now, most dance techniques are comprised of a very large number of movements, sequences, and combinations as well as the movement form required. These are the elements that take time and training to learn and effectively it is those same elements that are removed when using this technique. When assessing the viability of this technique, I asked some very simple questions.
- Is it Learnable in a short space of time by staff and children?
- Is it teachable following up one workshop and training session?
- Is it ‘cool’ enough to engage even the most resistant Y6 boy?
My own training in both ballet and contemporary at the Rambert as well as the various performances learned have given a good insight into just how much time it takes to learn a technique well enough to perform or teach it. Whilst the stomp performance was by far the most technically difficult and complex performance that I have ever been involved with, the hands and feet routine, upon which this technique is based is essentially nothing more than a combination of stamps and claps. I think that it is safe to say that most children excel in both of these by the age of two and so we already have the basis of our technique ready to be shaped into routines and various choreography. This resource will guide you through my tried and tested pathways and approaches which will hopefully deliver the same impressive results that I have witnessed time and time again.
The workshop elements and Structure.
My workshops from Y2 upwards follow the same
- The warm-up games
When my workshop was reviewed by the times educational supplement, Carolyn O’grady referred to the approach as “dance by stealth”. It is true that there is an element of subterfuge involved in their process as it possible to begin the class without using the word ‘dance’, or giving the children any idea that this our objective. My workshops begin with a rhythm game for which the children sit down with crossed legs in front of me. This game is great for getting the children to focus and adds an element of fun at the beginning. I use a drum to play the game which should be easy enough for anyone else to emulate. There are three levels, and the rules are simple. For level 1 I will play a rhythm on the drum for a few bars which ends with me hitting the drum either once loudly, or twice. If I hit the drum once, the children keep their hands on their knees, but if I hit it twice, they clap twice. This game is great for listening skills and as the children get used to playing, the object is to speed up the playing.
Once the children have got the hang of level one, it is time to move up to level two. For this, the children must stand up and find a space. The motif is the same but the rules change slightly here. I ask the children to put their hands together out in front of them. The game still revolves around whether I finish each rhythm with one hit or two but this time the children’s response is different. If I hit the drum once, the children stamp one foot, but if I hit the drum twice the children clap once behind them and again in front.
Level two usually lasts for 5 or 6 minutes by which point the children have got the hang of the change of rules. At this point, we move on to level 3 which is the same as level two in the children’s responses but this time they are not allowed to mix their responses up. So this time, if I finish my rhythm with one hit, the children must stamp, but the only stamp. If their hands come apart or they clap as well, they are out and they sit down. Similarly, when I hit the drum twice the children clap behind and in front only. If they move their feet at the same time, they are out and they sit down. This continues until the class is down to the final two children who then come out to the front and face each other.
The final has the last two players face off and play the same game as level 3 but with 3 lives each and the last one standing is the winner.
if you forward the video below to 46 seconds, you can see this part of the game being played.3
Warm up with bars of rhythm.
At this point, the children need to sit down again in order to do some call and response rhythm with just our hands. This works as it sounds, I clap a bar of rhythm to them and they clap it back to me. It is best to use a 4/4 time signature and stick to it, so that’s a bar lasting for 4 beats within which can contain any rhythms that you can think of. I have written some example bars of rhythm out below and I have also included a full set of printable rhythm cards to accompany this resource.
1 2 3 4
C C C C
c c c c c c
cc cc cc cc
c cc c cc c c
c cc cc
Insert audio file to accompany the rythms
Please play the audio file to hear how the above rhythms are supposed to sound.
Once the children have clapped through 8-10 rhythms with just their hands, it is time to add some feet, and so I will ask the children to stand up. We are now going to do the same call and response but using stamps and claps and other movements. I have written out some examples of various rhythms below and a full set is included in the rhythm cards.
1 2 3 4
C C C S
c/s c/s c/s c/s (Clapping and stamping together)
ccs ccs ccs ccs
C/ht C/ht (Clap and jump to face the back of the room, clap and jump to face the front again. ht= half a turn)
C C FT (two claps and a full turn. FT= a full turn)
SS C SS C (will sound like queens, we will rock you).
So at this point in the workshop, we are moving a lot more. I have introduced turns and kicks into the mix as well as a few other movements, all with the rhythmical setting of body percussion. It is important to point out that every sound counts, even the landing of a turn. These bars or sequences are easy enough to learn and teach. One goal here is to gently increase the complexity of the bars whilst introducing various movements. By the end of this section, the children will have already covered most of the bars of rhythm and movement used in the set class routine.
The set class routine.
At this point of the workshop, the children have been slowly introduced to a new technique, which has involved some fun and games, some clapping and stamping and a few other movements. Most importantly they have not been asked to do anything that is beyond them as everything has been delivered in small bite-size pieces. This part of the workshop is a little more challenging because we are going to build up a routine a bar at a time. The key to the children successfully learning the set routine is repetition. We are now going to build up a routine using bars of rhythm just as we used in the warm-up. The difference now that we are adding bars on and the children will need to start remembering the sequence as it develops.
The key to this section of the workshop is repetition. I would teach each bar of rhythm in the same way that I did in the warm, as a call and response. Once the children have learned each bar, I would then add it on to the routine and run it through from the beginning. I will only add the next bar once the children have shown me that they have all understood and can perform the routine as it is. The duration of these routines can be from 10 movements to 4 bars for FS and Y! up to 16 – 32 bars from Y2’s up to KS3 children. Please find a selection of routines from each year group below.
Reception Children performing a sequence of 10 movements.
Y1’s performing there set routine.;
Y2 set routine
Y3 set routine
Y5 set 5 set routine
y6’s performing their set routine
Y7’s performing their set routine.
Y8 Set routine.
Year 9 dance students performing their set routine. (Dont try this at home)!
Once the set routine has been leaned, the children should have a good understanding of the technique as well as some ideas of there own. So now we move on to group choreography which involves the children working independently and in smaller groups. When I am running a workshop, I will allow the children to pick their own groups which helps with chemistry but can also create groups that are ability and confidence based. I usually bow to the knowledge of the teaching staff to rearrange these groups if required.
As far as the size of the groups is concerned, it is best I have found to stick to four or five in a group unless the class is particularly large or there are two classes working together. In this case larger groups of six+ might be required in order to fit in short performances for each group at the end of each session.
Once in groups, I will sit the children down and talk through the different components that I will be asking the children to include in their routines. I have listed the different aspects of choreography below. The amount of these that are chosen to include in the workshop will depend on the age and experience of each class, If you are using this as a resource then it will be up to you to introduce the elements that you feel are appropriate and each element can be developed over a variety of timescales.
It is imporatant to explain the technique again at this point putting an epmphasis on the sounds that are created by each movement. Maintaning sounds and rhythm is key here as is keeping the tempo/speed the same. l will at this point explain that the movements are up to the children, and that they can include whatever movements they want to as long as they can find a way to create a sound within it.
This is easier than it sounds and by pointing out that claps, stamps and clicks can easily be included into even the most unlikely of movements. This is where the beauty of this technique comes into its own as it con emody any movements from a myriad of techniques. So by pointing out that Gymnastics, karate or streetdance movements count, it opens up the childrens prospects of thinking of appropriate movements when choreographing their own routines.
As with writing a story, we need a beginning, a middle and an end. The children need to decide, how they will stand at the beginning, the content of the middle and the ending which needs to be definate and obvious. I will then ask the children to not only consider the movements that they are using, but how they are moving as a group. These different ways of moving include the following:
A canon is performed by a group doing the same movement one at a time. A canon that the children might recognise would be a mexican wave in a football ground. Please see the videos below of some examples of hands and feet canos.